Product Review: Air Canada’s Fully Automated Baggage Handling

This simple process sends your bags directly on to connecting flights so you don’t have to recheck them.

What Is It: At Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport, which serves as Air Canada’s hub, a simplified baggage handling process sends checked bags directly on to connecting flights so that travelers no longer have to retrieve and recheck bags for U.S. Customs inspection.

Price and Where to Buy: This is a free service offered on all flights that connect in Toronto and continue on to Air Canada’s U.S. destinations.

Pros: Ease of use! I came away fully impressed with the service. No waiting in long lines, no fretting about missing a connection, no stress of any kind. I connected in Toronto en route from Beijing to New York, and I was responsible for my carry-on bag alone; my checked luggage made it from Asia to the U.S. with no difficulty. As I had a relatively tight connection for an international route, this was a real game changer for me.

When I talk about this Air Canada experience with friends and family, I always contrast it with the experience I had with United in Newark about a month later. In that case, I was traveling home from Frankfurt to Boston via Newark. My flight arrived in Newark with about 2.5 hours between connections. Thankfully in this case I’d traveled carry-on only, because the line to claim and recheck bags through U.S. customs was about a mile long and showed no indication that it was actually moving at any point during my observations.

Would I have made my connection with United? Possibly. I actually doubt it, but I don’t discount the potential for a miracle, so for the sake of argument let’s suppose I did. Would I have boarded my plane stressed and angry? Absolutely. The contrast between Toronto’s fully automated baggage handling process and Newark’s medieval claim-and-recheck gauntlet was a real eye-opener.

Cons: As far as I know, the fully automated baggage handling is still only available at Toronto and not any of Air Canada’s other U.S. gateway airports.

How it Rates:

  • Comfort: 10/10. No dragging my luggage through the airport.
  • Convenience: 10/10. I experienced no hitches with the process.
  • Value: 10/10. It’s free!
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. Nothing’s cooler than returning stateside without the usual airport hassles.

Final Verdict: I will connect through Air Canada’s Toronto hub at every opportunity. This is a great service. Other airlines could learn a thing or two from it!

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

By Josh Roberts

Josh Roberts believes the best trips involve long hikes and muddy boots. His life goals haven't changed much since he was a kid: He still wants to be Indiana Jones when he grows up.

Follow him on Twitter (@joshwhowrites) and Instagram (@joshwhowrites), and visit his website (joshrobertsbooks.com) or Goodreads page to learn more about his forthcoming novel.

Josh joined SmarterTravel in 2001, and is an active member in both the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

In addition to SmarterTravel, he has written for USA Today, The Boston Globe, Yahoo! Travel, The Huffington Post, Airfarewatchdog, TripAdvisor, Jetsetter, ABC News, Oyster, and Business Insider. His travel photography can be seen in Britain and Ireland's Best Wild Places, published by Penguin UK.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A lacrosse ball. It's small, lightweight, and works wonders on loosening up tight muscles."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Being the first to discover an ancient lost city. Failing that, visiting as many of the already-discovered ancient ruins as possible."

Travel Motto: "Not all those who wander are lost." -J.R.R. Tolkien

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle."

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